Brown’s Commencement is one of the nation’s oldest, largest, and most colorful academic pageants. A media guide to the University’s three-day weekend follows here and at the Commencement 2011 home page. See also news releases about baccalaureate, count of graduates by degree, Alpert Medical School and Graduate School convocations, senior orators, and honorary degrees.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Charles M. Royce, a 1961 Brown graduate and chief marshal for the University’s 2011 Commencement, will lead thousands of graduates, alumni, faculty, and administrators through the Van Wickle Gates and down College Hill on Sunday morning, May 29, 2011. Brown’s Commencement procession — more than a mile long — caps a three-day Commencement and Reunion Weekend. Most events on Saturday and Sunday, May 28-29, are open to the public, although access to some venues is restricted due to space limitations. A summary of the weekend’s main events appears below. Additional information and links to other sources of information will be added to this page periodically.

Editors: University-issued press credentials will be required for all reporters, photographers, videographers and other media representatives. To register for credentials, call Courtney Anderson in the Office of Media Relations at 401-863-7287 or send e-mail to courtney_anderson@brown.edu. The reporter’s name, organization, telephone, and e-mail address are required. Requests for credentials must be made by 5 p.m. Wednesday, May 25. Credentials will be available Thursday morning, May 26, at the Office of Media Relations, 71 George St.

In advance of the Commencement ceremonies on Sunday morning, most streets near campus will be designated one-way; many will be closed to vehicles. Access for live trucks and other vehicles must be scheduled in advance. Space for media will be reserved on the College Green, and access to the audio signal will be provided. Credentials will be required for access to the press area.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Commencement Forums
A Commencement tradition celebrating its 41st year, the Commencement Forums offer insight, expertise, and discussion on topics across a variety of fields. More than a dozen sessions are scheduled for Saturday, May 28, 2011:

  • 9:30 a.m. — Applied Mathematics as Metaphor
    L. Mahadevan, de Valpine Professor of Applied Mathematics, professor of organismic and evolutionary biology, professor of physics, Harvard University (Salomon Center for Teaching, Room 001)
  • 9:30 a.m. — The Human Exploration of Space
    David R. Scott, fighter pilot, test pilot, Gemini and Apollo astronaut, NASA executive, consultant, and a candidate for an honorary degree (MacMillan Hall, Room 117)
  • 9:30 a.m. — Earthquakes: Japan, Haiti, Worldwide – Can We Predict Them?
    Terry E. Tullis, research professor emeritus of geological sciences (MacMillan Hall, Room 115)
  • 9:30 a.m. — The Granoff Center: Under One Roof
    Richard Fishman, director of the Creative Arts Council (Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts, Martinos Auditorium)
  • 9:30 a.m. — Vodou Flags of Haiti: History, Spirit, and Art
    Katherine Smith, Mellon-Cogut Postdoctoral Fellow in the departments of Africana studies and history of art and architecture (Churchill House, Rites and Reason Theatre)
  • 11 a.m. — Did Giant Volcanic Eruptions Kill the Dinosaurs?
    Albrecht Hofmann, emeritus director, Max Planck Institute, in Mainz, Germany; visiting senior research scientist, Lamont-Doherty Institute at Columbia University; adjunct professor, University of Nanjing, China (Macmillan Hall, Room 115)
  • 11 a.m. — The Idea of America: Reflections on the Birth of the United States
    Gordon Wood, Alva O. Way University Professor and professor emerita of history (Salomon Center for Teaching, De Ciccio Family Auditorium)
  • 11 a.m. — Award-Winning Theater: Brown Playwrights and their Work
    Eng-Beng Lim, assistant professor of theatre arts and performance studies, moderates a panel: Adam Bock A.M.'89, playwright; Lynn Nottage '86, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, Guggenheim Fellow, MacArthur Fellow and honorary degree candidate. (List Art Center, Room 120)
  • 1 p.m. — Brown Alumni Magazine Forum: Read a Book Lately?
    The Future of the Book in an Age of eReaders and iPads

    Norman Boucher, editor and publisher of Brown Alumni Magazine, moderates an alumni panel including Jonathan Karp ’86, executive vice president and publisher, Simon & Schuster; David Gernert ’78, literary agent, The Gernert Company; Andrew Blauner ’86, literary agent, Blauner Books Literary Agency; Casey Schwartz ’04, science reporter, The Daily Beast, Newsweek (Salomon Center for Teaching, Room 001)
  • 1 p.m. — The 85th Stephen A. Ogden Jr. ’60 Memorial Lecture on International Affairs:
    “The World and Women”

    Nicholas D. Kristof, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning op-ed columnist for the New York Times, candidate for an honorary degree (Salomon Center for Teaching, De Ciccio Family Auditorium)
  • 1 p.m. — What Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Would Want Us to Know About Health Care Disparities
    Augustus A. White III, M.D., Ph.D., '57, P'98, Culturally Competent Care Education Program, Ellen and Melvin Gordon Distinguished Professor of Medical Education, professor of orthopedic surgery, Harvard Medical School (Smith-Buonanno Hall, Room 106)
  • 1 p.m. — Seeing Ourselves, Showing Ourselves
    Students from the Public Humanities Program will discuss their exhibition “Seeing Ourselves, Showing Ourselves: Brown’s Culture on Display” at the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology gallery (Manning Hall)
  • 1 p.m. — Brown's Vision of Mathematics in Our Society
    Jill Pipher, professor of mathematics, director of ICERM; David Mumford, professor emerita of applied mathematics, candidate for an honorary degree; Bjorn Sandstede, professor of applied mathematics, associate director of ICERM; Jeffrey Hoffstein, professor and chair of mathematics, associate director of ICERM (Sidney E. Frank Hall for Life Sciences, Room 220)
  • 1 p.m. — Reframing Haiti : Art History and Pedagogy
    Anthony Bogues, Harmon Family Professor of Africana Studies; Karen Baxter, managing director of the Rites and Reason Theatre (Pembroke Hall, Room 305)

Baccalaureate procession

The first formal academic procession of the weekend begins at 1:45 p.m., as graduating seniors make their way from the College Green to the First Baptist Meeting House.

Baccalaureate service
Brown’s Baccalaureate tradition derives from the immense range of religious, ethnic, geographic, linguistic, and musical traditions present within the campus community. The ceremony includes rituals, readings, and prayers from Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism and animist traditions, as well as choral and instrumental music, the Chinese lion dance, poetry, dance, and Taiko and Senegalese drumming. Kenneth Roth, a 1977 graduate of Brown and the executive director of Human Rights Watch, will deliver the Baccalaureate address. The service begins at 2:30 p.m. Because the First Baptist Meeting House can accommodate only the graduating class, the service will be simulcast for family and friends who can watch it on the College Green, in the Salomon Center for Teaching, and in Sayles Hall.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Commencement procession
The University’s ceremonial Van Wickle Gates open twice a year: in the fall as new students enter campus, and in the spring as graduates depart for the larger world beyond campus. The procession begins at 9:45 a.m. at the Van Wickle Gates.

Graduate School Convocation
Dean of the Graduate School Peter M. Weber will preside at his first Graduate School Convocation, beginning at 10:15 a.m. on Lincoln Field. In addition to the conferral of advanced degrees, the convocation includes a Commencement address by a student elected by the Graduate Student Council and the presentation of the Horace Mann Medal, first awarded in 2003, when the Graduate School celebrated its 100th anniversary.

Alpert Medical School Convocation
Edward J. Wing, M.D., dean of medicine and biological sciences, will preside over the 37th Commencement of the Alpert Medical School at 11:15 a.m. in the First Unitarian Church. Wing will administer the Physician’s Oath, a version of the Hippocratic Oath prepared by the M.D. Class of 1975, the school’s first graduating class. The convocation will feature three addresses:

  • Griffin P. Rodgers, director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and a member of Brown’s M.D. class of 1979, will deliver an address titled “What Has Brown Done for You?”
  • Charlotte M. Boney, chief of the Division of Pediatric Endocrinology and Metabolism, program director of the Pediatric Endocrinology Fellowship, and associate professor of pediatrics, will deliver an address titled “Walk in the Light of Creative Altruism.”
  • Steve Young Lee, a member of the graduating M.D. class, will deliver the student address, “Greater than the Coat.”

College Ceremony
Since 1776, all but two Brown University Commencements have been held in the First Baptist Meeting House. In 2006, when the graduating class had grown too large to be safely accommodated, the students voted to preserve the tradition by holding part of the Commencement ceremony on the church grounds. President Ruth J. Simmons greets the class, delivers brief remarks, and confers degrees on the church grounds beginning at 12:10 p.m. The balance of the ceremony takes place on the College Green.

University Convocation
The Commencement procession returns to the College Green, where the University Convocation begins at approximately 12:45 p.m. The University Convocation includes:

Student orations

  • Elyse VyVy Trinh will deliver an oration titled “An Education in Altruism.”
  • Jacob Combs will deliver an oration titled “What I Learned from the Big Bad Woolf.”

Honorary degrees
Honorary degrees are voted by the Board of Fellows of the Brown Corporation and conferred on the College Green. This year, the University will honor 10 persons with honorary doctorates:

  • Katie King Crowley, Olympian: Doctor of Humane Letters (L.H.D.)
  • Arianna Huffington, internet publisher: Doctor of Humane Letters (L.H.D.)
  • Nicholas D. Kristof, journalist: Doctor of Letters (Litt.D.)
  • David B. Mumford, mathematician: Doctor of Science (Sci.D.)
  • John J. Nicholson, actor: Doctor of Fine Arts (D.F.A.)
  • Lynn Ida Nottage, playwright: Doctor of Fine Arts (D.F.A.)
  • Lisa Randall, theoretical physicist: Doctor of Science (Sci.D.)
  • Kenneth Roth, human rights advocate: Doctor of Humane Letters (L.H.D.)
  • David R. Scott, astronaut: Doctor of Science (Sci.D.)
  • Zhenkai Zhao (Bei Dao), poet and editor: Doctor of Letters (Litt.D.)

Awarding of diplomas
Graduating seniors receive their diplomas at departmental ceremonies immediately following the University Convocation. There are more than 50 departmental ceremonies. Location information, including a map and key, is printed in the Commencement program.